Take Note

November 29, 2000 1 min read

Busy as Bees

Students at the Sunflower School in Gillette, Wyo., are learning more than just the three R’s. They’re working hard in “jobs” that keep the school operating smoothly.

Since September, the K-6 school’s Busy Bee program has offered mock employment opportunities for children interested in serving as sweepers, lunchroom helpers, safety patrols, and cashiers for the school store.

Angie Coulter, a behavior-disorder aide, and the school counselor, Rita Lubnau, got the idea as a way to teach students “how to be responsible, [and] take pride in themselves and in their school,” Ms. Coulter said.

Now, one-fourth of the Sunflower School’s 408 students have jobs—and Ms. Coulter says the school has never looked better.

Available jobs—including positions helping teachers decorate bulletin boards and keeping the leaves on potted plants dusted—are posted on a bulletin board. Students fill out applications, which must be signed by their parents and teachers, and are interviewed for the jobs.

Children lucky enough to be “hired” receive congratulatory letters, while those who aren’t selected are encouraged to apply again. There are plenty of opportunities: Some jobs take just a week, while others will last an entire school year.

Megan Gebhart, a 6th grader, works as a “Lovable,” visiting the lower grades to encourage pupils to be polite and positive. She also serves on the Busy Bee committee, made up of staff members and students, which meets weekly to manage the program and plan a monthly party.

“It’s really a good program because it makes a lot of kids feel important,” Megan said, adding that the real-world experience “has really given me confidence, because adults like my ideas, and I’ve learned responsibility.”

At the party, featuring awards for the “employees of the month,” speakers from local businesses talk to the Busy Bees about jobs and the work ethic they’ll need to succeed.

“The program really has made a difference,” said Ms. Coulter, whose goal was to keep potential troublemakers busy. “I have seen a difference in behavior.”

—Vanessa Dea

A version of this article appeared in the November 29, 2000 edition of Education Week